Israel rejects Hamas' cease-fire plan after meeting with Blinken
Updated February 7, 2024 at 6:13 PM ET
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a cease-fire plan delivered by the Palestinian militant group Hamas to end the war in Gaza.
Netanyahu called the plan "delusional" and noted that it would have left Hamas in power of the Gaza Strip at the end of the phased truce.
"It will just invite another massacre," Netanyahu said at a news conference hours after meeting Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Blinken says he's in the region to press for a cease-fire that allows more aid into Gaza and a release of hostages held by Hamas there. Hamas also wants the release of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking around 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials. Israel launched an air and ground campaign in Gaza, killing more than 27,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health Ministry.
Netanyahu said a lasting peace could only be achieved through a "total victory" of the Israeli military against Hamas, arguing that anything short of that would only embolden Iran-backed militias across the region.
"Without total victory, Iran and its terror proxies — Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and others — will be emboldened to subvert moderate states in the Middle East; they'll threaten the entire free world," he said.
"Only total victory will prevent that. And total victory is within our reach," he added, saying such a result was a matter of months, not years.
U.S. still sees room to negotiate
Blinken said there was still room for negotiations to continue, telling reporters that "while there are some clear non-starters to Hamas' response, we do think it creates space for agreement to be reached and we will work at that relentlessly until we get there."
Hamas' proposal on Tuesday had raised hopes in Gaza of a possible end or pause to the fighting. Thousands of people have fled to the town of Rafah, on the coastal enclave's southernmost border with Egypt, to escape the Israeli onslaught, and have nowhere left to go. Israel's defense minister, Yoav Gallant, hinted earlier in the week that the Israeli military could move there next.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned Wednesday that an Israeli offensive into Rafah "would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences."
Blinken said he raised concerns about this with Israeli officials during his visit and reminded them that they have an obligation to protect civilians, although he he has said that many times before.
NPR's Michele Kelemen contributed to this report from Tel Aviv.
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